Six Management Lessons we can learn from Gareth Southgate

In my business I often come across managers with one thing in common; they are flying by the seat of their pants! People who are ‘accidental managers’. You know, the great team member who is plucked from their team and given a management role or the talented business owner who finds themselves managing people as their business grows. They have little or no training or development and rely on what they’ve learned along the way from managers around them, good or bad. And if you need a great management role model, we can learn some really crucial lessons from Gareth, and his signature waistcoat.* ​

Lesson 1 – Nurture your Culture

Many clients say to me, ‘I really want to improve the culture of my business. I want to get it right.’ So what can we learn from Gareth? First of all, he had a really clear idea of what he wanted the culture of Team England to be. The thing with culture is that it starts with values; it starts with the values of the person at the top. Gareth clearly is a man who has strong opinions, strong values, a really clear idea of how he wants to operate. What I think he did brilliantly was choose people for his team who shared those values. I don’t think it’s any mistake that certain people were not brought into the England setup, people who maybe had massive egos, big superstar baggage or people for whom it was ‘all about them.’

Just look at the individuals within that team and how well he brought them together. Regardless of what team they came from, he managed to bring in those people who shared his values, who bought into the idea that ‘we are one team,’ and he did a fantastic job of building that culture.

He talks about the England DNA. If you think about the last 20 plus years, the England DNA has been big egos; it’s been superstars; its been cliques, it’s not been about pride in wearing the England shirt. Look how many people have pulled out of playing for England, have not seen it as a real privilege. They’ve seen it as a chore, and he, in a very short space of time, has been able to turn that around.

The fact that he’d raised a few of these guys from a very young age as manager of the England under-21s, proves there’s an awful lot to be said for growing your own talent – bring in the attitude and then develop the skill.

Obviously, with football you have to have natural talent, but attitude is so, so important. In a lot of situations it’s not the superstars who win, it’s the collective, it’s the team. Look at Croatia – great example. Look at England – great example. We got all the way to the semi-finals, and Argentina with Lionel Messi went out. Portugal with Ronaldo went out. The collective, bringing together a great team, will always win, and Gareth Southgate as the manager was responsible for that.

So great first lesson, nurture the culture you want to build. Think about your values; it starts with values, then bringing in people who share those values.

Lesson  2 – Build Unity 

Within the England setup, there was no us and them. There was no ‘the staff and the players’. That was really clear from what you saw on TV, how they were with the physios and the psychologist and with Gareth himself. Although a few of them did slip into calling him ‘Gaffer’ they mostly called him Gareth, which was just unheard of in the past. There was no us and them. Absolutely, they were one.

Gareth Southgate was great as a manager in sharing any praise. It was always, ‘We, the team,’ ‘We, the squad,’ ‘We, the entire group of staff and players.’ And taking responsibility for any blame, ‘Yeah, I’m responsible. I’m the manager.’ I absolutely loved that he was brilliant at sharing praise and shouldering blame.

He was also very good at supporting those who were having a hard time. Take Raheem Sterling, the England scapegoat; Gareth was great at protecting him and keeping his confidence high. Not just because he recognised that Raheem was so crucial to the team effort, but also just because this was in line with his values, that he would look after the team. He would keep that person feeling confident and part of the team.

So the second lesson is unity. Make your business one team.

Lesson three – Develop Relationships 

As a manager, you need to build great relationships, and Gareth did just that with his competitors.

When you saw him going around at the end of each match they played, he seemed genuine in his congratulations to the other players, to the other staff, made a really big point of shaking hands with everybody. Perhaps that’s easy when you’ve won, but even in defeat, when it must have been absolutely killing him when they lost to Croatia, you saw him going around to every single member of their team and to the staff, hugging them, congratulating them.

Then going to his own team to just remind them how far they’d come and how well they’d done. Building relationships was really important, just as he did with the managers of the players he brought into the England squad. He didn’t antagonise them in the old ‘club versus country’ way, but was just very firm, fair, and friendly with everybody that he had dealings with.

So the third lesson is about building relationships.

Lesson 4 – Inspire and Motivate

One of the common questions I get asked by people on our Management Development Programme is, ’What’s the difference between a manager and leader?’

There’ll be books written on how managers are the logistic experts, they just keep things ticking along. A big part of a management role is making sure that the attention to detail is there, that mistakes aren’t made and if they are, that they’re learned from and so on.

But these days in any business, you have to be a leader as well. You have to inspire and motivate the team, and quiet as his media persona was, our Gareth was clearly a very inspiring and motivating guy. He didn’t immediately crack the whip. When he first met with the squad, he took them into a room and shared his vision of what it was like to be an England player and how privileged they were to wear the three lions shirt.

That is something I find that a lot of managers and business owners miss. They miss sharing their vision. ‘Where is this all headed? Where are we all going together as a team and why?’ He inspired and motivated them so well.

He clearly showed them how much he believed in them, and as a result, they believed in themselves. Every interview there was no talk of, ‘Oh, well, crikey. If we get to the quarterfinals, we’ll be lucky. We’ll have overachieved.’ No. ‘We’re going to win this. We’re going to win this.’ That’s what inspired the country. It’s coming home. He got those players to believe that they could win it, that they really could win it.

He also treated them like adults. Sometimes, particularly new/young managers feel their role is to be the boss, to talk at people, to tell them what to do. When you have adults or adult conversations with people in your team, when you give them the training and development and support that they need, when you really believe in them and remember that you have a responsibility to help them to fulfil their potential, that’s when you get your team to take ownership. That’s when people start to step up and go, ‘All right. I’m responsible for this. This is my job.’ And you saw that right through the tournament with England. The team were taking ownership. The team were taking responsibility, and they were acting like adults.

Fourth lesson – look to inspire and motivate your team to build ownership and belief.

Lesson Five – Have fun!

It became obvious as the tournament progressed that the team were enjoying themselves. They had an enormous amount of fun, which was something, again, that Gareth Southgate encouraged. He wanted them to enjoy themselves.

We are lucky with what we do, a lot of us, and why not have fun doing it? Why not encourage our teams to have fun? People are at work for so many hours of the day, it’s part of our responsibility as managers to help people enjoy it, not to dread coming into work and be managed by us.

Fifth lesson- create an enjoyable workplace. This goes back to culture and values as well.

Lesson 6 – Learn, learn, and then learn some more!

The final thing that I really wanted to bring up as a lesson from Gareth was his desire to learn, his desire to be the best possible manager he could be. Look how he went and studied other really successful people, both in sport and in industry. He really wanted to learn how the most successful teams operate, and he left no stone unturned. He will continue to learn. He’ll have already learned lessons from this tournament. He’ll already be preparing for the next because he wants to be the best he can be.

That’s really what I want for each of you. I want you to be the best possible people managers that you can be. So think about the lessons from Gareth. Think about your values and your culture. Think about how you can create unity in your team. Think about the development and support that you’re giving not to the team as a whole, not just to the stars, but to every single individual, however minor their role is in the team.

Think about the relationships you’re building and how they will help you to be a better manager. Think about how much you’re inspiring and motivating the team who work with you, and then think about how you’re going to become a better manager, what you need to do, the skills you need to develop, where you can learn those lessons that you need to learn to keep improving, keep developing, and be the best manager that you can be.

*waistcoat optional 😉

Do two things: think about how you need to develop as a manager then think about the areas you need help.

We run a highly successful online Managers’ Development Programme; the next is starting in August. To find out more, click here


‘I’m only two modules in, but I’ve already grown in confidence in leading my team and I’m no longer nervous around giving them constructive feedback. Thank you to Marianne for her wisdom and expertise!’ – Maddy Kelly, Boda Skins

Since starting this programme, my team’s productivity and progress is going up, consistently, month on month. And not just by a few percent! It’s significant. I’ve got my team into a really good position. Everybody knows what’s expected of them. Everyone is looking at their performance, and looking at their goals. I’ve shared my knowledge with other team leaders in the business, and they are starting to implement change in such a positive way throughout the whole company.

On a personal level, I’ve gained confidence, I’ve become more direct and clear with my expectations. I feel like a manager now, and I can also manage upwards to my boss effectively.’ – Ryn Moser – Chief Language Officer, Supertext


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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